Tag Archives: 1920s suspender skirt

Sears Catalogs Online (and More Suspender Skirts)

A page from the Fall 1925 Sears catalog, now accessible online at Ancestry.com.

A page from the Fall 1925 Sears catalog, now accessible online at Ancestry.com.

When I wrote about Butterick’s “suspender skirts” from 1925, I found another example online in the Sears, Roebuck catalog from Fall 1925, but I wasn’t able to convert the image to a JPG file. Today I found a work-around. I also learned how wonderful the Sears Catalog archive at Ancestry.com really is.

For years, costumers and others interested in the history of everyday fashions treasured the exerpts published by Stella Blum and her successors in the “Everyday Fashions from Sears and Other Catalogs” series of Dover books. Now, you can see complete Sears Catalogs from 1896 to 1993 at Ancestry.com. Every page is scanned, it is searchable, and you can set it for a full page view and skim through several pages easily. When you find something you want to examine closely, you can zoom in as much as you want. And you can print your own copies of a page or part of a page.

The bad news is that you have to join Ancestry.com to access them. The good news is that you can get a free trial subscription to Ancestry.com and explore this resource before you commit to a $19.99 per month subscription. Lynn at American Age Fashion wrote about this resource in January, so I tried it, but I had to phone for help finding the Sears catalogs, so I’ll tell you how to find them, later.

More 1920s Suspender Skirts

MIsses' skirt 6017, with blouse 5903. Butterick, May, 1925.

Misses’ suspender skirt #6017, with blouse #5903. Butterick, May, 1925.

This suspender skirt for misses and small women appeared in the Sears catalog in Fall 1925, proving that the fashion was not limited to Butterick:

A suspender dress (note the deep armholes) from Sears. It is called the "Pretty Peggy." Fall 1925 catalog.

A suspender skirt (note the deep armholes) from Sears. It is called the “Pretty Peggy Skirt” in the Fall 1925 catalog.

pretty peggy text sears 1925 fall catalog 500

A search for “Pretty Peggy” led to song lyrics, a kind of doll, and — so far — no other suspender skirts. A “Peggy” skirt was also popular in the 1950s — in England, it looks like a full skirt — with no suspenders.

The same Sears catalog had this “suspender dress” for girls:

Sears catalog, Fall 1915. "Girls' suspender dress."

Sears catalog, Fall 1915. “Girls’ suspender dress.”

Sears also sold a suspender skirt sewing pattern (left, below) :

Spring 1926 Sears catalog pattern 39E7061 for a suspender skirt.

Spring 1926 Sears catalog pattern 39E7061 for a suspender skirt.

A search for  “suspender skirt pattern” in Google images brought up versions going back to 1910s  and many from the 1940s, 50s, and later, but not these 1920s versions.

Sears Pattern Illustrations

I find it interesting that the pattern illustrations for Sears used a more realistic human figure than those from Butterick.

Sears pattern illustrations  from Spring 1926.

Sears pattern illustrations from Spring 1926.

Pattern illustrations from Sears catalog, Spring 1926.

Pattern illustrations from Sears catalog, Spring 1926.

Sears pattern ilustrations from Spring 1929 catalog.

Sears pattern illustrations from Spring 1929 catalog. Even Lane Bryant catalogs were not this honest about size 52.

Here’s a bit of useful information about women’s sizes I found skimming through Sears’ pages; 1920’s hips were larger than you would expect from fashion illustrations:

Women's pattern measurements from Sears, Spring 1929.

Women’s pattern measurements from Sears, Spring 1929. Page 146.

Using Sears Catalogs for Costume Research

Here is a simple demonstration of how useful these online catalogs can be; I wanted to find out how quickly hems dropped in the mass market — as opposed to high fashion — between 1929 and 1931.

1929:  Misses dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 127.

1929: Misses’ dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 127. Hems are at mid-knee. Kneecaps exposed.

1930: Misses' dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p.44.

1930: Misses’ dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 44. Hems are one or two inches below the knee.

1931: Misses' dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 35.

1931: Misses’ dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 35. Hems are approaching  mid-calf.

Here they are, side by side:

Misses' Dresses from Sears catalogs one year apart: 1929, 1930, 1931.

Misses’ Dresses from Sears catalogs one year apart: 1929, 1930, 1931.

I decided that, as a research tool which includes clothing for all ages — men, women, boys and girls; occupational uniforms; shoes; underwear and hosiery; nightwear; hats, purses and other accessories; and prices for all of them, access to 97 years of these catalogs is worth $20 per month.

How to Find the Sears Catalogs at Ancestry.com

After you sign up for a trial membership, look for Search on the horizontal bar. The Sears link is in Ancestry.com under “search” > card catalog > collections > newspapers and publications > periodicals and magazines > Historic Catalogs of Sears Roebuck and Co. Once there, you can search by keywords, year (exact or plus/minus 1 year, etc.) You can print a zoomed image of any page — there’s a tiny, olive green printer icon next to the facebook icon. The Gentleman’s Magazine Library (1700s to mid 1800s) and Illustrated London News up to 1900 are also available, along with access to a vast number of newspapers.

My workaround:  The images in this post were printed on paper and then scanned to get them into JPG format. The print quality is very high.

NOTE:  If you don’t want to commit to paying monthly membership dues to Ancestry.com, be sure to opt out before your free trial deadline expires!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Children's Vintage styles, Resources for Costumers

Suspender Skirts, 1925

Butterick suspender skirts,, 1925. Left, May, # 5997; right, April, #5979.

Butterick suspender skirts with smocked blouses, 1925. Left, May, #5997; right, April, #5979.

The “suspender skirt” — called the “Pretty Peggy Skirt” in the Fall 1925 Sears catalog — was available in several Butterick patterns for women and girls during 1925. I hate to keep mentioning Downton Abbey, but I remembered seeing suspender skirts in Delineator magazine because Lady Edith recently appeared wearing one. (She was photographed mostly from the waist up, so I can’t be absolutely certain, but it looked like she was wearing a dark suspender skirt with a white blouse in the brief scene where she told Tom that she intended to leave Downton Abbey without talking to anyone.)

Suspender skirt 6079, left, and 6063, far right. June 1925, Delineator.

Suspender skirts #6079, far left, and #6063, far right. June 1925, Butterick patterns in Delineator.

It’s a rather strange fashion, and was sometimes described as a skirt, and sometimes as a dress. In America today, we’d be inclined to call it a “jumper,” meaning a sleeveless dress designed to be worn over a blouse. (“Jumper” is one of those words, like “braces” and “vest,” which mean a completely different piece of clothing in the U.K.)  Sometimes, as above, it was scooped to above the natural waist, but some versions appear to be open so low that the blouse wrinkles.

Designers had already shown one-piece dresses with a curved contrasting “bib,” one of many ploys for adding a vertical element, or a contrasting element near the face, to mid-1920’s fashions.

A dark dress with a contasting bib effect. May, 1924.

A dark dress with a contrasting bib effect. May, 1924. Delineator.

A dress from Dec. 1924, left, and one from Oct. 1925, right. Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine.

A ‘bib’ dress from Dec. 1924, left, and one from Oct. 1925, right. Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine.

The suspender skirt, however, was a skirt with wide shoulder straps — often bias bound — and a low, curved front, worn over a separate blouse. Patterns were available for women, teens ( called “misses”) and girls. In adult sizes, patterns for the blouse and skirt were sold separately, sometimes with a matching jacket or vest pattern, too. Suspender skirts for girls, however, included the blouse pattern — probably because child-sized patterns used less paper.

Girls' suspender skirt and blouse pattern 6176. August, 1925. Delineator.

Girls’ suspender skirt and blouse pattern #6176. August, 1925. Delineator.

Butterick suspender skirt and blouse #6009. May, 1925.

Butterick suspender skirt and blouse #6009. May, 1925.

Girls' skirt and blouse pattern 6131, July 1925.

Girls’ suspender skirt and blouse pattern #6131, July 1925.

MIsses' skirt 6017, with blouse 5903. Butterick, May, 1925.

Misses’ skirt #6017, with blouse #5903. Butterick, May 1925.  Note the line of slenderizing decorative buttons, seen on many 1925 patterns.

Many of the suspender skirts were shown over blouse pattern 5903, which has a smocked neckline and “folk” embroidery.

Butterick suspender skirt 6079 with blouse 5903. June 1925.

Butterick suspender skirt #6079 with blouse #5903. June 1925.

In 1925, dresses were often shown with a decorative handkerchief hanging out of the pocket, like most of these.

Skirt 5964 with blouse 5498 and coat 5981. May, 1925. The blouse was from 1924.

Skirt #5964 with blouse #5498 and coat #5981. May, 1925.

In this version, the coat is lined with the plaid wool used for the skirt. The blouse, Butterick 5498, first appeared in 1924.

Pattern information for skirt 5964 and the rest of the outfit. April, 1925; Delineator.

Pattern information for skirt #5964 and the coat, #5981. The same coat and skirt were featured two months in a row; this describes them worn a different blouse and hat. From the April, 1925 Delineator.

The pattern descriptions for skirts #5997 and #5979 appear below.

Butterick suspender skirts,1925. Left, # 5997; right, #5979.

Butterick suspender skirts, 1925. Left, #5997 has small pleats in front; right, #5979, has pleats near the hem at CF and side seams, but not in back.

Pattern information for skirt 5997.

Pattern information for skirt #5997, when it was featured in a different magazine issue with the sleeveless jacket, #6001, below.

Suspender skirt #5979, on the right above, was also illustrated in red, with a sleeveless jacket and contrast binding:

Suspender skirt 5979 with blouse 5903. May, 1925. Delineator.

Suspender skirt #5979 with blouse #5903, and  jacket #6001. May, 1925. Delineator.

Pattern information for Butterick skirt 5979. Jacket 6001 was also illustrated with suspender skirt #

Pattern information for Butterick skirt #5979 and jacket #6001; this is the description from a different month, which showed the skirt and jacket with a different blouse and hat.

The vocabulary was not always used precisely; the outfit on the left, below, was called a “suspender skirt” and blouse, but the one on the right was described as a “dress” and blouse. They are shown with two versions of the same blouse, #5508, from 1924.

Suspender skirt #6077 (June) with blouse #5508  and "Dress" 6119 with blouse #5508 (July.) 1925.

Suspender skirt #6077 (June 1925) with blouse #5508 and “Dress” #6119 (July 1925) with blouse #5508. The ‘dress’ has higher armholes.

Another thing worth noting, for the light it sheds on pattern production:  all but one of the suspender skirts have exactly the same back.

Back views of suspender skirts 5964 and

Back views of suspender skirts #5964 and #5979.

Back views of suspender skirts 5979 and 6017.

Back views of suspender skirts #6017 and #5979.

Personally, I suspect that the reason why this style only appeared for a short time was that it’s a bad design; with the back scoop as low as the front scoop, the straps would fall off your shoulder every time  you reached down, especially when you were sitting. Only #5997 solves the problem with a higher scoop in back than in front.  If you make a suspender skirt, copy this back.

1925 may p 102 pattern back view skirt 5997 higher back

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Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns